Hiring Adjustments for
Generations X and Y
Flexible work hours. Corporate mission. What is the point of focusing
on these non-traditional hiring topics? Two letters – X and Y.
Generation X (born between 1963 and 1980) and Generation Y (born after
1980) are establishing a more prominent position within the employment
landscape as the Baby Boomers prepare to exit the workforce. The shift
to these younger generations is prompting a new focus in hiring tactics.
The Baby Boomer
generation was cut from the cloth of work first and foremost, climb the
corporate ladder and retire with a healthy pension plan. Those days are
all but gone. Today, younger workers are creating a paradigm shift in
employee hiring based on their priorities. We have observed this
accelerating transition firsthand over the past 2 years.
We work with companies
in many market spaces, industries and geographic locations. The hiring
landscape has already changed and companies that do not frequently hire
may be unaware of the new focus. Certain patterns exist today that are
universally consistent when hiring Gen X and Gen Y employees.
Perhaps there is no more profound shift in
values than this topic. Gen X, and even more so Gen Y, is focused on a
position’s time requirements. This isn’t to say the younger generations
are not hard workers. On the contrary, they put tremendous effort into
their work, but they also place a high value on their personal time away
from the office. This balanced approach has been mistakenly interpreted
by the Baby Boomers as a “slacker mentality.”
The younger generations
search for opportunities where they can grow their skill set without
having to sacrifice every other area of their life. As an employer, it
is imperative to understand this desired balance. Positions that lack
the needed support, tools or technology often will be a red flag to the
Gen X or Y candidate. The reward for accepting such a position clearly
has to outweigh the perceived imbalance it may cause in their life.
Most people are familiar with the term
“career path.” The Baby Boomer generation experienced a marketplace
where preordained opportunities existed to climb the corporate ladder
within the same company. Today’s younger generations generally do not
have such consistent opportunities before them. More importantly, many
of the younger generation do not subscribe to the same loyalty as the
Gen X and Y candidates
are looking for a “skills path.” They desire to understand what skills
are needed to be successful in the position today. The long-term
incentive is to understand what skills they will personally develop or
acquire within the company. They prefer a horizontal management
structure and respond to personal skill development. Titles are out.
Responsibilities are in. It is imperative to share with the candidates
the responsibilities they will inherit as their skills become more
advanced over their tenure with the company.
As mentioned, the younger generations have a
fairly horizontal view of the org chart – whether accurate or not. We
have seen this approach wreak havoc in an office dominated by Baby
Boomers. The Baby Boomers expect an almost military-style chain of
command while the younger generations have a more fluid approach to
positions of authority.
Gen X and Y highly
value the manager-employee relationship. They view their manager as a
guide – an experienced Sherpa to make sure they are on the right path.
In debriefing Gen X and Y employees after they are hired, the vast
majority consistently mention the impression of their manager as having
the most influence on their decision to join the company. The hiring
manager needs to connect with the Gen X and Y candidate on a personal
level during the interview process. Clearly the manager-employee
relationship is a two-way street so this approach affords the hiring
manager a beneficial insight into the candidate also.
Work Smarter Not Harder
These generations are plugged-in to
technology from Bluetooth to Blackberries. They have spent much of
their working careers, even entire lives for some, having Internet
information available to them at a moment’s notice. This fact can work
against employers in that these younger candidates are savvy about
Internet job boards and have a tendency to always have an eye out for
However, the upside of
this technological ability is far greater. A subtle item we have
observed among Gen X and Y candidates is their strategic thinking.
Their youthful age belies the fact that they have sharp minds for
understanding macro markets. We have seen these younger candidates ask
amazingly insightful questions that make the hiring managers pause
during the interview. We have also seen strong candidates pass on
opportunities because they were skeptical of the hiring company’s
shallow business plans.
The Gen X workforce
will be ascending into prominent management positions at a brisk pace
over the next 5 years. The next wave of change will occur in the
management ranks as they shift the hiring process away from the Baby
Boomer approach. The aforementioned topics will move to the forefront
of the hiring process as the newly crowned Gen X managers hire the Gen Y
employees. Until that happens, progressive companies will perceive
these current shifts and adjust their hiring tactics in advance.
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